When deciding on a treatment plan for depression, there are pros and cons that should be considered. TMS therapy has its own pros and cons. The pros tend to outweigh the cons, but still, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the common benefits and side effects so you can make an informed decision.
Cons of TMS Therapy
Short to Medium Term Commitment
When receiving treatment, you generally have to show up to your treatment provider 5 times a week for 6 weeks. Those suffering from major depressive disorder may have to return periodically after their first 6 weeks to continue treatment. Each individual session will last about 40 minutes.
TMS treatment is a time commitment, but many patients find ways to attend treatment without much disruption to their daily lives.
There is only a little leeway with missing appointments. One or two missed appointments will not ruin the whole treatment, but you really should plan on making them every time. This can be hard for some who are suffering from depression, but if you think it might be a struggle getting yourself to the appointments, you might ask someone you trust to help you. If you live with parents, guardians, a spouse, or roommate, consider asking them for help remembering your appointments or for helping getting to your appointment.
Insurance companies do typically cover TMS; however, they usually require that providers exhaust conventional treatments first.
What this means in practical terms is that you usually have to have been working with a psychiatrist for some time, trying out different SSRIs, mood stabilizers, and similar treatments, before they will sign off on TMS. Different insurance providers will have different qualifications. Some may require that you try out a set number of different drugs, and some may recommend that you spend some amount of time visiting with a therapist.
Do not worry though. This does not mean that you will be waiting around for years hoping to get approved. It may only mean 6-12 months. There is a good chance that you have already been in care for some time if you are aware of and considering TMS.
Have a couple of conversations with your mental healthcare provider and your insurance provider and see what requirements you need to meet.
Finding a provider
TMS therapy has not reached the level of popularity that psychiatry and talk therapy have. It also requires specialized equipment and specialized training to conduct the treatment. This means that your regular mental healthcare provider may not offer the service. If they do not, you can ask them to help you by referring you to a provider they trust, or you can search for one nearby.
Not Fun, but Not the Worst
You may still experience some discomfort.
The most common form of discomfort is at the exact places where the coils are placed. The pain is not excruciating, but it can be annoying. Some patients report slight jaw pain as well.
Headaches and muscle twitching are the two other main forms of discomfort TMS sometimes causes in patients.
Luckily, these minor side effects tend to subside with successive treatments. The body is very adaptive, and it will adjust to the procedure with each subsequent visit.
At Genesis Behavioral Health, we approach TMS therapy in a holistic way – calling on counselors, nurse practitioners, and our TMS staff to give you individualized care and make the process as easy as possible. To learn more about TMS at Genesis, be sure to check out our TMS page or contact intake for a consultation.
Pros of TMS Therapy
TMS therapy is most commonly used to treat those suffering from depression, though it is used to help people with other mental health struggles as well. The exact success rate varies by study, but it is generally found to be effective for between 50%-90% of patients. A metanalysis of the scientific literature conducted in 2012 found it to be at least as effective as antidepressants.
The important part is that TMS generally works best for those with Treatment Resistant Depression, or those for whom anti-depressants have not worked.
People who benefit from TMS therapy also tend to report the benefits as being long lasting, continuing for months and years after treatment.
There can never be a guarantee with any treatment, but TMS therapy does have a good track record.
You do not need to be put under anesthesia or become bedridden when receiving TMS treatment.
Your practitioner will place coils on certain parts of your head, and you may feel a dull tapping sensation. Once your session is over, you are free to resume your normal activities throughout the rest of your day.
This means that you do not have to have someone drive you to therapy, nor do you have to lose wages by taking time off from work. Many clinics understand that their patients have jobs and other life obligations to attend to. For this reason, many of them operate into the afternoon so that patients can make their appointments every day of the week.
While psychiatric drugs work wonders for many people, many do not like the idea of relying on daily medication for their well-being and roughly 30% of those with depression do not see improvement with medication. There are also the ongoing side effects that many drugs bring along with them. While side-effects and dependence are often considered worthwhile trade-offs, you do not have to consider the trade-off with TMS.
On the other side, if you are benefiting from psychiatric drugs, you do not need to stop taking them in order to receive TMS therapy. You can continue reaping the benefits of both forms of therapy without any complications.
Hopefully you feel prepared to decide wisely about pursuing TMS therapy. Seeking treatment for ongoing mental health issues can be exhausting and frustrating. Know that treatment is out there, and mental healthcare professionals are in your corner ready to help you through whatever you are going through.
At Genesis Behavioral Health, we aim to treat every patient with compassion. When you receive TMS treatment with us, you can rest assured that you are under expert care.
As a mental health center, Genesis will do everything in our power, through TMS therapy and other means, to help you get well from depression. We will give you TMS treatment that is personalized for you, with the best technology and the support of a team of caring professionals. Our care team will give you the most up-to-date treatment we can possibly deliver. Our team goal is to make your treatment experience as comfortable as possible. The patient never loses control of how tolerable the treatment is. The feeling is like a tapping on the head and we affectionately call it the electronic woodpecker – well, because it can feel like that – but the intensity of it is always under the control of the patient.
George MS, Wassermann EM, Kimbrell TA, et al. Mood improvement following daily left prefrontal repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in patients with depression: A placebo-controlled crossover trial. Am J Psychiatry. 1997;154(12):1752–6.
Klein E, Kreinin I, Chistyakov A, et al. Therapeutic efficacy of right prefrontal slow repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in major depression: a double-blind controlled study. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999;56(4):315–20.